The Somme – Auchonvillers: Ocean Villas Tea Rooms Museum

Still in Auchonvillers, just three hundred yards from our previous stop at the communal cemetery, here we are back at Ocean Villas Tea Rooms run by the ever-welcoming Avril Williams (inset: Duncan Senior and others tuck in on a previous visit). 

The Wall of Remembrance, opened by Martin Middlebrook on 1st July 2008.  Should you ever stop at the tea rooms and wish to view the museum, you might consider phoning or emailing Avril in advance, as the museum will need to be opened especially for you, and you don’t want to turn up and find the tea rooms heaving with people with no one available to supervise your visit.  Just as we, or at least our tour guide, failed to do.  Hm.  Luckily for us, we had chosen a quietish day.

Avril kindly opened the museum for us, so where to start?  A couple of British uniforms (the one on the right a strange leather and canvas concoction) some shells and shell fragments, and a nice Vickers machine gun, but you know what took my eye?  The three wire cutters leaning against the wall between the snipers shields,…

…and the shelf above, containing seven different types of small wire cutter.

Plenty of the ubiquitous S.R.D. jars – I have some in my garden – and what appears to be some kind of battery powered German signalling equipment (No. 19) on the left.  The guns in the foreground…

…are, I think, anti-tank rifles.

The British Lewis gun (although American designed), with circular magazine on the box behind.  The horse shoe is a horse shoe.  No, I’m not being preposterously obvious, but should you ever find a rather smaller horseshoe on the battlefield,…

…comme ça, it probably isn’t.  The pocket knife is there for a size comparison, because this horse shoe is, of course, all that remains of a soldier’s boot.  Both relics from my small collection.

Back in the museum, light railway equipment,…

…toffee apples and the tube of the mortar used to fire them, a Stokes mortar round on the right, and some very nice bottles.

More machine guns, a French Hotchkiss in the centre, and a piece of used body armour in the background.

Various bayonets,…

…and another personal favourite, being a sometime collector – the grenade cabinet.  And if grenades interest you, I suggest you explore here.  Or maybe here, your choice.

Nice Pickelhaube and various Pickelhaube spikes.

A piece of British tank track,…

…and another example of a Hotchkiss machine gun, this time .303 calibre, most often used in British tanks, and a couple of 6-pounder tank shells, all laid on another piece of tank track.

French helmets….

…and some very nice pots.  Don’t laugh.  I like pots.  One of my favourite items in my own modest collection is the little ceramic shaving bowl shown in the inset.

Original German and French grave markers, original, and now long replaced, Imperial War Graves Commission cemetery signposts (background & below),…

…and original, metal, French headstones.

Yet to be properly displayed at the time of visiting, shells, plenty of these Second World War examples, I think,…

…and yet more shells, and a wheel from a Sturmgeschütz, if the framed photograph is anything to go by, and if I remember my youthful modelling days.

Locally found Great War relics,…

…and World War Two relics.  This whole collection (the only one on the Somme with artefacts and memorabilia from both the Great War & the Second World War) once belonged to historian, author and collector André Coilliot, who I believe is still with us, now in his late eighties, and was purchased by Avril some ten years ago.  Do pay Avril a visit when you’re next on the Somme; the teas and food are refreshingly excellent after a hard morning on the battlefields, and there’s also a restored trench at the back of the building that you can visit after you’ve eaten.

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9 Responses to The Somme – Auchonvillers: Ocean Villas Tea Rooms Museum

  1. Nick kilner says:

    It’s a cracking museum, I think the tank tracks are new, well since I was last there. Hoping to stay with Avril in the spring, it’s a great ‘jumping off point’ for the Somme (as long as you don’t happen to be going into battle of course

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Nick. It is indeed. I must get a look at the trench one day – next year hopefully. Have arranged to catch up with Jack a week on Saturday, btw.

      • Nick kilner says:

        Excellent! I hope the trip to cornwall went well. Please give Jack my best. I may have had some further progress on that matter, time will tell.

        • Magicfingers says:

          Cornwall excellent thanks. I will check over the weekend that I am up to speed with your Erquinghem stuff and if not I shall email you for clarification. Am heading off Thursday evening.

  2. Morag Sutherland says:

    Good memories of visits to Avrils when Celine now at Thiepval visitor centre cooked our breakfast. Avril has such knowledge of the area. The collection is amazing. As a resident we got a personal look ….

    • Magicfingers says:

      We kind of got a personal look too – from the point of view that Avril had to keep an eye on the whole bunch of us for reasons explained in the post.

  3. Tony Osborne says:

    Great spot to pop in whilst touring the area – always a warm welcome and a great to be able to get a Full English to set you up for a days exploring.

    Normally plenty going on around 1st July – have done a couple of walks led by Andy Robertshawe organised from Ocean Villas, and got to meet some very knowledgeable and interesting people.

    Highly recommended

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